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Traditional Navajo Teachings Vol. 1: Sacred Narratives and Ceremonies

Updated: May 21, 2021

Traditional Navajo Teachings Vol. 1: Sacred Narratives and Ceremonies by Perry Robinson and Robert McPherson

Reviewed by L. Bennett


What an incredible 3-part series! Perry Robinson, a traditional Navajo medicine man, gifts to readers his perspectives on Navajo life woven from the teachings of his grandfather and parents, his personal experience and insight, and a desire to keep tradition alive. Historian Robert McPherson wraps Robinson's stories and explanations in the fabric of local and southwestern events that have both impeded and favored Navajo teachings. The result is a window into the importance of landscape, ethics, prayer, and self-responsibility that form the foundation of Navajo existence.


What impressed me most in the first volume of the trilogy was the integrated nature of the Navajo world. From the colors used in ceremonies to the direction one sends prayers, to the cycle of life among humans and animals, there are proper procedures to be followed. How a wedding basket is made and used and retired, the construction of a hogan, dealing with death, and the use of a sweat lodge are just a few of the examples provided in the book. Robinson discusses his performance of numerous ceremonies, including his careful preparation, the importance of family members, and what happens when things go wrong. The reader becomes aware of things not often discussed in public. Throughout, the authors stress that it is the links among the ceremonies, family, ritual objects, words, and the landscape that assure success.


McPherson and Robinson reveal a cosmological and environmental ecology that keeps order, provides guidance, and helps people be healthy and connected. Break the links and the future is bleak.


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